No one plans to get sick or injured, but sometimes children fall on the playground or wakes up with a fever in the middle of the night. With many centers offering extended hours and welcoming walk-in appointments, urgent care can be an attractive option for you and your child.
Is It OK to Take My Child to an Urgent Care Center?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend urgent care centers for children under age 2.
In addition, urgent care centers that are not connected to a hospital service are often retail-based clinics, which may provide limited care for your child. These clinics can also be expensive.
Before taking your child to an urgent care center, ask yourself these three questions below.
1. Is It an Emergency?
If not receiving care could lead to death or permanent disability, the U.S. Library of Medicine classifies the health concern as an emergency.
If your child experiences any of these symptoms, take them to an emergency room or call 911:
- Anaphylactic shock or other severe allergic reactions
- Choking or not breathing
- Head, neck or spine injury
- High fever
- Seizure that lasts three to five minutes
- Severe burns or wounds
2. Can It Wait for an Appointment?
If your child’s health concern is not an emergency, but you cannot wait until the next day to receive care, go to an urgent care clinic.
Otherwise, your child may be able to receive care from a pediatrician. Even if your child doesn’t get to see his or her regular pediatrician, if the health concern is comparatively mild, a doctor’s visit may be your best bet.
3. What’s Your Pediatrician’s Phone Number?
Regardless of where your child receives care, the first thing you should always do, according to the AAP, is call your pediatrician. Even if their office is closed, you’re likely to get connected to a doctor on call.
Describe your child’s symptoms to the doctor. He or she can recommend your next course of action. In some cases, the doctor may handle your child’s problem with just that first phone call.